Aero microturbine targets power generation applications

UAV Turbines, Inc. (UAVT) has said its Monarch 5 turboshaft engine can now run on natural gas, which could extend its application beyond flight into ground emergency and standby power generation for both onsite and remote application areas. Fred Frigerio, UAV Turbines’ Senior Vice President of Engineering, commented, “With minor engineering changes, the Monarch 5 engine can adapt to several different clean energy fuel sources such as natural gas and hydrogen.”

UAV Turbines’ miniaturized microturbine technology targets applications such as hard-to-access remote weather stations, oil fields, telecom towers, construction sites, emergency field teams, stationary first responders and military vehicle communications.

Kirk Warshaw, CEO of UAV Turbines added, “Most recently, UAV Turbines emerged from a decade of stealth and privately funded research and development to make public demonstrations of its breakthrough propulsion and power generation technology platforms. Since the successful demonstration of the Monarch 5 in Group 3 UAV flight, UAV Turbines has demonstrated its Monarch Hybrid Range Extender (HREX) configuration and prototypes of its turbogenerator system for ground-power applications in the 3-40 kW range.”

The turbine's specs

Monarch 5: Power output: 20 kW; thermal efficiency: 17.2%.

UAV Turbines has not done emission testing

Modification would be needed for application in power generation. Frigerio explains: "The engine control is different due to the radically different type of load. Where in an aero-engine, the load is predictable and the unexpected transients are small, an electrical load can change very fast and in very large amounts, without any warning. Additionally, shock loads in ground power generation use are larger than in aero-engine use, particularly in a moving, off-road vehicle. There are some other issues related to inlet air filtering because ground-level air can contain much higher particulate contamination than in an aero application where this is mostly a concern during ground operations."

Reciprocating engines often beat microturbines in efficiency in such power ranges. "A gas turbine prime mover is preferred where fuel cost is not the driver but compactness, weight, very low maintenance, low vibration, and multifuel dominate the requirements. Those applications tend to be things like emergency response where portability and multifuel is important and remote emergency power where reliability, low maintenance requirements would be important. Supplemental power for ground vehicles where the available space is restricted would be another application," Frigerio adds.